|The Van Gogh Cafe at the Grounds for Sculpture (photo courtesy of David W. Steele)|
Grounds for Sculpture Founder Seward Johnson
Seward Johnson was born in 1930 and attended the University of Maine before enlisting in the Navy and subsequently spending four years on the U.S.S. Gloucestor (PF 22), the only ship hit by enemy fire during the Korean War. Later Seward settled in New Jersey and raised a family. Seward's artistic career began with painting before his interests turned to what would later become his main body of work. His first cast work of sculpture won the Award in Steel competition, besting around 7,000 entries. He was practically self taught, unless you count a few classes he had taken in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Another interesting fact about Seward Johnson is that his name is used in conjunction with many products Americans buy on a regular basis. He is the grandson of the co-founder of Johnson & Johnson.
Today his works are exhibited internationally in public and private art collections. His work is comprised of three series: 'Beyond the Frame,' inspired by Impressionist paintings, the 'Celebrating the Familiar' man on the street works and 'Icons Revisited' based upon images of the collective unconscious.
These days Johnson spends his time in New York City, Nantucket and Key West.
Arriving at the Grounds for Sculpture
The 42-acre sculpture park and museum is located at 80 Sculptor Way, Hamilton Township, New Jersey, formerly known as the New Jersey fairgrounds. Grounds for Sculpture became a nonprofit organization in the summer of 2000 and subsists on revenue from visitors, art patrons, donations and grants.
When we arrived, the first thing we encountered was a larger-than-life sculpture of King Lear as we made our way to the Seward Johnson Center for the Arts' Welcome Center. There guests can roam the galleries to view the rotating exhibits, purchase gifts at the museum shop, or grab a bite to eat at the Van Gogh Cafe. The Cafe is worth a visit, whether you're hungry or not, for the view of the ceiling alone, which is a tribute to the artist's famous "Starry Night" painting.
|"King Lear," by Seward Johnson, greets guests.|
|"Confrontational Vulnerability," by Seward Johnson.|
|"A Little to the Right," by Seward Johnson.|
|Bruce Beasley, Dorian, 1986, stainless steel, edition 1/2, 240 x 360 x 120 inches. Grounds for Sculpture, Gift of The Seward Johnson Atelier.|
|"Far Out," by Seward Johnson.|
|"Depression Breadline," by George Segal.|
|Seward Johnson, Dejeuner Deja Vu, 1994, bronze, edition 1/8, 62 x 132 x 360 inches, Grounds for Sculpture, Gift of The Seward Johnson Atelier.|
|The Grounds for Sculpture is a peaceful place for a stroll.|
|"Has Anyone Seen Larry," by Seward Johnson.|
Once in awhile, visitors will discover that Seward Johnson doesn't always take himself so seriously, like with this piece, titled, "Has Anyone Seen Larry?" And then there's this one below, titled, "Pondering the Benefits of Exercise."
|Seward Johnson, Pondering the Benefits of Exercise, 2004, bronze, edition 1/8, 55 x 216 x 96 inches, Grounds for Sculpture, Gift of the Seward Johnson Atelier.|
|William T. Wiley, To Marcel DuChamp, 1887-1968, Artist, Tool and Die Maker, 1968, stainless steel, 84 x 112 x 90 inches, Grounds for Sculpture, Gift of The Seward Johnson Atelier, Original Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Sabol.|
|"Interaction," by Seward Johnson.\|
|Emilie Benes Brzezinski, Lintel, 1993, bronze, 128 x 117 x 28 inches, Grounds for Sculpture, Gift of The Seward Johnson Atelier.|
|Karen Peterson, Beast, 2001, bronze, Edition, 2/7, 87 x 102 x 41 inches, Courtesy of the Artist.|
|Joan Danziger, October Gathering, 2001, bronze, 48 x 36 x 36 inches, Grounds for Sculpture, Gift of the Seward Johnson Atelier.|
|Philip Grausman, Leucantha, 1993, aluminum, edition 1/3, 108 x 118 x 118 inches, Grounds for Sculpture, Gift of The Seward Johnson Atelier.|
|Seward Johnson, Part of Nature, 2000, aluminum, edition 1/8, 47 x 41 x 38 inches, Grounds for Sculpture, Gift of The Seward Johnson Atelier, Inc., Original Gift of Seward Johnson|
Another sculpture which commands attention due to the gathering mist is titled, "Part of Nature," by Seward Johnson.
|Horace Farlowe, Portal Rest, 1999, white Danby marble, 12 x 15 x 20 feet, Grounds for Sculpture, Gift of The Seward Johnson Atelier.|
|David Hostetler, Summertime Lady, 1999, bronze, edition A/P, 116 x 32 x 24 inches, Grounds for Sculpture, Gift of The Seward Johnson Atelier.|
|Rat's Restaurant interior (courtesy of David Michael Howarth photography.)|
|Seward Johnson, Sailing the Seine II, 1999, bronze, edition 2/8, 60 x 72 x 55 inches, Grounds for Sculpture, Gift of The Seward Johnson Atelier.|
Yet another piece with water as a backdrop is Seward's "Sailing the Seine," where Manet's couple is reimagined as a "Beyond the Frame," piece.
|"Redon's Fantasy of Venus," by Seward Johnson.|
|Seward Johnson, On Poppied Hill, 1999, bronze, aluminum, edition 1/8, 99 x 84 x 60 inches, Grounds for Sculpture, Gift of The Seward Johnson Atelier.|
|Scenes from the "Chamber of Internal Dialogue."|
Once again, Seward shows his sense of humor with "The Chamber of Internal Dialogue," which is a stand-alone structure featuring a room where guests can enter and perhaps lay down on the psychiatrists couch to contemplate their existence and hope they don't end up looking like the character in "The Scream."
Just a Few of the Many Sculptures to Be Seen
These few pictures may whet your appetite for a future visit. From what I understand, there are about 250 more, most of which are on the grounds. Others are at the visitors' center, like the incredible one seen below with the eyebrow-raising backstory.
|"Double Check," by Seward Johnson.|
After seeing this many Seward Johnson sculptures, I realized I had encountered his work elsewhere during my travels, from the Lincoln statue in downtown Gettysburg, to the jogger at Nemocolin, the dancers in Key West and the man reading a newspaper in Steinman Park in Lancaster, Pa.
|This sculpture, titled, "Time for Fun" was located at the Art and Historical Society Custom House Museum in Key West when we visited.|
|"Shaping Up," by Seward Johnson, was spotted last year at Nemocolin Woodlands Resort.|
If you go, be sure to at least allow three hours for viewing. If I do it again, I will visit when the temperatures are cooler and allot 90 minutes to stroll the grounds with a Rat's restaurant break at noon and an extra hour or two in the afternoon. Given our schedule this time, we merely scratched the surface of all there was to see in this unique gem of a destination.
To learn more about hours, prices and more, visit the Grounds for Sculpture website at: https://www.groundsforsculpture.org/